Following (and Being) God’s Signposts
Illustration: remix of Still life with Bible by Vincent van Gogh
By Amanda Polewski
When I first sat down with David Hanson to discuss starting up a young adults’ blog, we discussed how one of the questions that young adults wrestle with most frequently is “Am I following God’s path for me?”
“Every day,” I laughed, referring to how frequently I ask myself this question.
He stopped what he was about to say, and looked at me seriously. “Yes,” he said. “The answer is always yes.”
A few months ago, Bishop Burton opened a sermon by introducing how the Cree Native Americans conceive of time: “God’s time – that is, the right time. You picked berries when God made them ripe, neither before nor afterwards. And that time, you could not know in advance.”
I’ve found myself returning to this concept of “God’s time” pretty frequently, particularly when I’m anxious about my life and what I want to accomplish (Matt. 6:34). But as the adage goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” My life doesn’t run on any time but God’s (Proverbs 16:9). We are ready when God determines we are ready, and it’s okay to feel a little – or a lot – unripe and unsure in the meantime.
But I think it’s equally important to understand that regardless of our being fixed to God’s timeline, ripening until we’re ready to do the work he has in store for us, we aren’t exactly bereft in dark (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8). Signs are all around us (Rom 1:20). The Celts, for instance, believed that the natural world of God’s creation is a revelation from God no less important than the revelation contained in the Bible. And the interesting thing is, creation is always in progress. God’s Word is the word that never stops being spoken. Jesus Christ as the Logos is the never-ending Word of Life.
And as God’s creations, God speaks through us too.
A few weeks ago, I was in an elevator at work. The sole other occupant looked at me nervously, as if she wanted to say something. I tried not to assume that something was on my face or clothes. Suddenly, as the doors opened at my floor, she burst out, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?”
I only marveled at the oddness of the phrasing and intonation once the elevator doors were closed again. It hadn’t been an affirmation – it had been a question, and a nervous one at that, in a tone that said I’m not really sure why I feel compelled to say this to you, but here we are.
It hadn’t been “Jesus loves you!”, bright and cheerful. It had been a question – “No, but do you really know?”
That nervous woman was a signpost for me, though not all of my signposts have jumped out at me so explicitly with Jesus’ name on their lips. But yet, they don’t need to do so for Jesus’ name to be inherent in their words and actions. Once my signpost was a chatty Irish woman on an empty, open seating flight, who inexplicably decided to sit directly next to me and reassure me about something that was weighing heavily on my heart. Another time, I ended up in a new job after having been on the hunt for months, due entirely to an informal conversation at an event that would never have happened if not for a few, small things that aligned precisely on that day.
God brought these people in my life for specific reasons. The circumstances were such that I couldn’t not pay attention – but it makes me wonder about all the things I miss because I’m just not listening hard enough. And of course, even after acknowledging that yup, I saw you there, God; will take action now, I still have so many questions. But isn’t that what it means to take part in the human condition?
And then, there’s this well-known verse:
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)
Here’s the fact of the matter: we’re all out here in the dark. We don’t know the landscape, we do know that things can change at any moment, and because it’s dark, we feel like we’re alone. But in reality, we are all in this together. One of the things that can be hardest to truly know is that you’re not floundering on your own, especially during a time in your life when so much has yet to settle. It seems from your own perspective that so much is settling for everyone else, and that you may be falling behind from where you’re meant to be, when you’re actually only falling behind where you had abstractly meant yourself to be.
But you’re always on God’s path, and on God’s time – and you’re in good company. God’s Word in all its glorious multifacetedness – in Scripture, in community, and at His table, Jesus Christ,- is the light onto our path (John 8:12).
And the Light doesn’t light up our entire path on it’s own but .there’s a deep relational responsibility we have to listen harder, to look deeper – with our individual connections with God and each other.
So let’s do it. Are you following God’s path for you? Yes – the answer is always yes. But let’s look together at the signposts along the way.